With Serena out, the Rogers Cup looks like Halep's tournament to lose

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WATCH—Championship point from Kuznetsova's win over Vekic in D.C.:

What qualifies as bad news for Rogers Cup officials may be good news for the players: Serena Williams withdrew from the event this weekend due to personal issues. But Serena’s absence isn’t the death knell for a WTA tournament the way it once was. This field still has a dozen contenders—both for the title here, and for the bigger one coming in New York.

First Quarter

Simona Halep’s early loss at Wimbledon last month was understandable; she was still flying high after her Grand Slam breakthrough in Paris. Now it’s back to business for the world No. 1, and Halep usually does very good business on North American hard courts—she won this tournament the last time it was held in Montreal, in 2016. But before she can think about repeating that performance, she should probably think about reaching the quarterfinals. To get there, Halep may have to beat Venus Williams. While they haven’t faced each other in three years, the American leads their head to head 3-1.

Also here: Maria Sharapova, Daria Kasatkina, and No. 6 seed Caroline Garcia

First-round matches to watch: Kasatkina vs. San Jose finalist Maria Sakkari, Barbora Strycova vs. Magdalena Rybarikova

Potential second-round match to watch: Kasatkina vs. Sharapova

Semifinalist: Halep

Second Quarter

Like Halep, Angelique Kerber is coming off a major-title run, at Wimbledon. And like Halep, she’s comfortable on hard courts. But, also like Halep, she may be due for a post-Slam letdown in her first event back. Kerber has a manageable draw early, but things could get tricky in the quarters, where she’s scheduled to play either Petra Kvitova or Karolina Pliskova.

Speaking of Kvitova, what should we make of her chances? She won the title in Montreal in 2012, and, outside of the majors, she has been mostly brilliant in 2018. But her potential path to the semis—Ekaterina Makarova or Anett Kontaveit to start; Pliskova after that; and Kerber after that—isn’t a cakewalk.

Also here: Wimbledon success stories Kiki Bertens and Alison van Uytvanck

First-round matches to watch: Kontaveit vs. Makarova, Pliskova vs. Katerina Siniakova

Semifinalist: Kerber

Third Quarter

Can we call this the draw’s Question Mark Quarter? Garbiñe Muguruza and Sloane Stephens are the top two seeds here, and they’re both Grand Slam champions, but neither is what you would call a sure thing at the moment. Muguruza was forced to pull out of San Jose with an arm injury last week, and Stephens wasn’t much better in D.C., where she squandered a lead to Andrea Petkovic and made an early exit.

Who might take advantage of this instability at the top? Julia Goerges and Naomi Osaka, the 10th and 16th seeds respectively, would seem to be the most likely to succeed.

First-round match to watch: Anastasija Sevastova vs. Aleksandra Krunic

Semifinalist: Goerges

Fourth Quarter

Speaking of unsure things, the top seed in this section, Caroline Wozniacki, withdrew from her last tournament, in D.C., with a leg injury. And the second seed here, Elina Svitolina, hasn’t played since making a first-round exit from Wimbledon. Svitolina may also have to start against a woman who has beaten her twice in the last month, Mihaela Buzarnescu.

But this quarter has the talent to pick up any top-level slack. Besides Buzarnescu, who won in San Jose this past week, there’s Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Ostapenko, wild card Victoria Azarenka (though Vika was forced to retire in San Jose with a knee injury), Kiki Mladenovic, Johanna Konta, Elise Mertens, and Aryna Sabalenka.

First-round matches to watch: Azarenka vs. Mladenovic, Ostapenko vs. Konta, Mertens vs. wild card Genie Bouchard

Semifinalist: Buzarnescu

Semifinals: Halep d. Kerber; Buzarnescu d. Goerges

Final: Halep d. Buzarnescu

ATP Toronto
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Watch live coverage from four courts on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday, August 6th at 11:00 A.M.

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